Having used the iFit Link for over month we feel ready to tell you what we think. The first thing you may say is “Who is iFit?”. Although the company has quite a long history, they only entered into the fitness wearables market a little over a year ago with the iFit Active, a compact step and sleep tracker with a digital display and a few nice little extra features.
Who is iFit?
iFit is one of the brands owned by iCON Health and Fitness who started as Weslo Inc. in 1997 as an importer of kitchenware, tableware, and marble products from the Far East into the USA. In 1979, Weslo Inc., Inc. responded to the energy conservation movement in the USA by acquired the rights to a freestanding wood-burning stove marketed under the trade name of Fire King Inc.
During the 1980s the company entered the health and fitness market by manufacturing trampolines, and responded to the tremendous growth in the market expanding their product range to include treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, and home gyms under the name Pro-Form Fitness Products Inc. As the company’s exercise equipment business grew, the company sold-off their wood burning stove business to focus on the fitness equipment industry.
In 1988, Weider Health & Fitness, a large manufacturer of sport nutrition products, and the largest publisher of health, fitness, and lifestyle magazines in the USA, acquired Pro-Form Fitness Products Inc. and Weslo Inc..
In November of 1994, Weider Health & Fitness sold the assets of Pro-Form Fitness Products Inc. and Weslo Inc. and Weider Care to a group led by Bain Capital, Inc. of Boston and iCON Health and Fitness, Inc was born. They then went on to purchase HealthRider in 1996 and NordicTrack in 1999 providing them with a chain of retail stores across the USA in HealthRider and a premium line of home fitness equipment in NordicTrack. This was then followed by their expansion into the commercial and specialty fitness markets with the acquisition of FreeMotion Fitness, Inc.
The iFit brand started as a functionality provided within the health and fitness equipment manufactured by iCON Health and Fitness, starting a VHS cassette based interactive training programme for fitness equipment where a video recorder is linked to the treadmill or bike and a video associated with the workout programme is displayed on a television. This progressed to linking a CD player instead and the music played being linked to the workout and further progressed to a CD drive being incorporated into the fitness equipment.
In 2007 iFit developed further to being fully embedded within the health and fitness equipment with the media provided via SD Card and finally in 2010/2011 iFit became an online service and the health and fitness equipment became net connected. Also in 2011, iCON Health and Fitness entered the running shoe market with the acquisition of ALTRA Zero Drop, the only shoes with the unique combination of full cushioning, Zero Drop, foot-shaped toe box and gender-specific list for men and women.
Since then, iFit has developed into a stand-alone brand within the iCON Health and Fitness group providing both connected software for multiple brands of fitness equipment and fitness wearables, starting with the iFit Active which has since been replaced with a new breed of fitness trackers for which our initial review is of the iFit Link.
The iFit Link
What is it and What does it do?
This year iFit are introducing a second generation of devices, the first of which is the entry level iFit Link. As with the iFit Active the link provides movement recording using an internal 3-axis accelerometer and uses this to count inferred steps during the day and quality of sleep during the night. Even though the iFit Active (45mm x 20mm x 10mm) was quite compact the iFit Link (42mm x 7mm x 13mm) is almost half the size, aided by the replacement of the digital display with 4 small blue LEDs showing goal progress.
Whilst the iFit Active was quite square, albeit having rounded edges, the iFit Link has a curved front and rear, fitting better to the contour of the human wrist and improving its aesthetic as a whole. The only thing that cheapens the new aesthetic is that there is a small degree of light bleed when the right hand LED is illuminated.
When it comes to wearability, whilst both devices are provided with wrist bands, the iFit Active also came with a belt clip and the mobile app (Android and iOS) supports it being worn on the waist, whilst the only wearing option supported for the iFit Link is on the left or right wrist. The wrist options appear somewhat confusing as other competing products refer to dominant and non-dominant wrists rather than left and right as users will see a higher reading from their dominant wrist (right for right handed people).
The lack of a digital display on the iFit Link also means there is no calorie intake inputting directly on the tracker unlike the iFit Active, but best thing about the iFit Active has migrated over to the iFit Link and it is the silent inactivity alarm letting users know they have not been active enough for a user defined period. We love this as it prompts you to get up from your desk to get in few more steps.
Finally, one improvement is that with the iFit Link comes the ability to gain Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware updates for the tracker via the mobile app (Android and iOS) which aren’t supported for the iFit Active.
iFit Link v Fitbit Flex
The functionality and appearance of the iFit Link places it in direct competition with the Fitbit Flex with its compact size LED based user interface and included wrist band.
Although the Fitbit Flex has the vast Fitbit user community behind it the iFit Link brings with it a couple of little features not available from Fitbit. The first of these is the inactivity prompt letting you know that you haven’t been active for a user defined length of time. We find this very useful in an office environment to remind is to periodically get up, leave the computer and stretch out legs of for nothing more than to get a drink and maintain hydration.
The second is integration with other fitness equipment like treadmills and bikes as iFit started as the software used on this kind of equipment manufacturer by Nordic Fitness and Pro-Fitness other companies owned by parent company iCON Health and Fitness.
Although there areas where the iFit Link wins when compared with the Fitbit Flex, there are also areas where it loses, like sleep tracking. Although both devices do this, the iFit Link does not automatically transition into sleep mode like the Fitbit Flex, needing the user to set a single daily sleep and wake time between which the device assumes you will be sleeping.
If we look at the direct web store pricing alone, the iFit Link ($59.99) wins again costing c.25% less than the Fitbit Flex ($99.95).
iFit Link v Misfit Flash
If we change our focus onto other fitness devices that uses banks of LEDs to show progress instead of digital displays, the Misfit Shine and Misfit Flash. Although the pricing of the Misfit Shine ($69.99) is slightly higher than that of the iFit Link, the real competition is with the Misfit Flash ($29.99) which be purchased for around half the price of the iFit Link ($59.99) and adds a simplified clock interface, whilst loosing vibration feedback.
Now onto tracking functionality, and yet again, the story is the same for this comparison as for the Fitbit Flex with the iFit Link loosing when it comes to automatic sleep tracking, but when it comes to silent alarms the iFit Link wins as the Misfit Flash has no vibration motor, meaning no inactivity alarm either.
When we get down to the sub-$60 price mark of the iFit Link ($59.99) and Misfit Flash ($29.99) pricing differences are less important as the iFit Link although more expensive than the Misfit Flash is still not much more than the price of an expensive meal. This said, the Misfit Flash is around the price of a cheap meal, costing half the price of the iFit Link. We do like the extra functionality provided by the iFit Link though although we miss the watch face from the Misfit Flash.
The iFit mobile app (Android and iOS) sits somewhere between the Fitbit app (Android, iOS & Window Phone) and the Misfit app (Android, iOS & Window Phone), providing less functionality than the Fitbit app, but more than the Misfit app. Both the iFit app (Android and iOS) and Fitbit app support food tracking alongside the step and sleep tracking supported by the Misfit app. There is also a second iFit app called iFit Outside (Android and iOS), for activity tracking outside, using the GPS functionality of the mobile phone in order to provide distance and route logging along with the step information from the iFit Link. We are unsure why the decision was made to have two apps when Fitbit app does the lot, but the important this is that the functionality is there and this functionality is not provided by the Misfit.
Although Fitbit has a massive user community and supports step comparison with your friends, the iFit app also provide the ability to follow and exchange messages with your iFit friends from within the app as well as seeing a shared ‘News Feed’ showing recorded food and drink intake and tracked activities.
Although the Fitbit app and the Misfit app are available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, the iFit app (Android and iOS) and iFit Outside app are limited to iOS and Android and there is no PC app either.
As with the Fitbit online service, the iFit service provides a plethora of online trend graphs for assessing changes in pace, distance, speed, calorie intake and burn and active hours. Both services provide the ability to set goals for steps, weight, and active hours, but the iFit service also has targets for an overall fitness score which is calculated based on ‘Workout Frequency’ (Target = 3 workouts per week), ‘Calories Burned’ (Target = burning 600 calories per week), ‘Net calories’ (Target = -1000 net calories per week), ‘Workout Time’ (Target = 90 minutes per week) and ‘Goals’
Whilst the Fitbit service provides competitive weekly score boards where your steps are compared against those of your Fitbit friends and awards somewhat limitless achievement badges as well as having a massive on-line community to connect with, albeit disconnected from the tracker dashboard, the iFit service provides workout videos and suggestions, food suggestions and a large user community of it’s own although It appears very biased towards the equipment rather than wearables owners.
In addition to this the iFit service provides challenges and programs specific to the connected gym equipment (elliptical, cycling and treadmill programs) side of the business less useful to those solely owning one of their wearable fitness trackers, but adding to their overall offering.
The iFit Link is a very competent entry level activity and sleep tracker priced well to undercut the Fitbit Flex and Misfit Shine and provides enough extra functionality to compete with the cheaper Misfit Flash. Whilst it lacks the ability to set multiple silent alarms like the Fitbit Flex and the waterproofness of the Misfit Flash and Misfit Shine it has an inactivity alarm which we love. If you are looking for an entry level activity and sleep tracker the iFit Link is not a bad starting point.
- Compact tracker unit
- Low cost alternative to the Fitbit Flex
- Linked to NordicTrack gym equipment (treadmills, cross-trainers, bikes, etc)
- Compact cable-free USB charger
- Cheapened slightly by light blead
- App only supports wearing in wrist band
- Not waterproof
- No digital display
The iFit Link looks and feels well built for its price mark, until you turn it on and the right hand LED illuminates bleeding light to the side of the casing, cheapening its appearance.
Based on its spec and our testing experience, the iFit Link is strongly targeted at Fitbit Flex users and potential users, providing the same functionality, but at a lower price. However it is outpriced by the cheaper Misfit Flash which, whilst lacking silent alarms, has added watch functionality.
The iFit Link gets 3-stars overall as although it is not waterproof and lacks some of the functionality provided in more expensive trackers the price reflects this. If the light bleed was rectified, the score would increase to 4-stars.